Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Useful Life of Trees

useful life

Period during which an asset or property is expected to be usable for the purpose it was acquired. It may or may not correspond with the item's actual physical life or economic life.

I am a gardener, so by my nature I like to see things grow. My favorite horticultural activity is planting. Oddly enough, my second best-loved one is pruning. But even that activity is done in an attempt to further the growth of my plants by either eliminating/reducing overcrowding (both within the shrub itself or with its neighbors) or removing deadwood. Pulling up my annual gardens in the autumn is my unhappiest pastime.

So it was with great sadness that we had our multi-year, multi-story American Elm tree taken down last year. And it is with equal unhappiness that we have now decided to remove an equally tall, two-trunked pine tree and a slightly shorter Maple tree whose stunted growth and Quasimodo posture were caused by living literally in the shadow of the now deceased deciduous behemoth.

The elm fell victim to its eponymous Dutch malady – as apparently all such trees do eventually. Why Dutch and not American elm disease? Apparently, although originating in Asia, the beetle-borne infection was first identified in the Netherlands in 1921. Clearly not a Dutch Treat. In spite of several years of booster shots, and after forcing the tree to endure the embarrassment of a basically leafless spring and summer, we had it put down in early September 2010.

The Maple tree began dismantling itself just over two years ago when it threw one of its three large branches onto our driveway during the Wethersfield tornado of 2009. Mars and I pruning-sawed our way out leaving the remains of the fallen wood on our snow shelf for the town to remove.

This past month, during hurricane Irene, the second somewhat larger bough crashed loudly onto roughly the same spot in our yard – and, to our good fortune, partially into Folly Brook Boulevard, the street in front of our house. We called the town and because of the hindering of traffic, the municipal physical services guys arrived within an hour, removed the tree from the road and driveway, and then two hours later chain-sawed and ground it to oblivion.

This leaves limb number three hanging out over the street like a teapot spout making the trunk look as if it was ready to tip over at the slightest provocation. The tree, from all outer appearances looks to be well into my yard – however it is actually a town tree on town property. (Long story short: Folly Brook Boulevard, a two lane suburban street, was originally planned as a four-lane highway with land acquired accordingly. It didn’t happen.)

As a result I felt the need to turn my tree in to the town Tree Warden. He looked at the injured Maple, agreed it looked unhealthy and dangerous, and has reported it to the Tree Commission which will decide its fate. He has marked it with a striped band indicating its potential imminent demise.

The bilateral pine tree was roughly my height when we moved here in 1977. Now, at four or more stories high, it has become top heavy and branch poor. It swayed way too much for our comfort during the hurricane and, if broken, would easily fall on one of our neighbor’s houses or our own. Twice burned by the Maple, three times shy with the pine.

We called the arborist who removed the Elm tree and made arrangements. The only question now is whether the town or the arborist (at our expense) will do in the Maple.

Either way, it and the double-barreled Pine are going. Unattractive and hazardous are not useful – nor are they signs of healthy growth.

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